Nowadays, there's a dating app or website for every specific interest you can think of, from the kinkiest to the most vanilla. A lot of these are niche sites, used only by a specific, targeted group of people, but there are also the in-betweeners.
Apps that target basically everyone looking to date or hookup. These are the apps that I'm going to be comparing today (because if I went into detail about niche sites, this post would never end). Now, on to our first contender!
This was the first app I thought to turn to when I wanted to start dating - and with good reason. Tinder is everywhere. A week ago I would have said it was the most superficial of the dating apps I've used, due to the extremely limited bio length and the fact that we all too often swipe based entirely on the first picture, but I now know that it's come to a tie with another app on this list.
Pros: If you're looking for a hook up, this should be your go to! The majority of guys on Tinder are looking for hookups (or at least open to them), and quite a few have no qualms about making that clear. There are obviously exceptions - one of my best friends was looking for basically anything but hookups on Tinder, and now she's dating a guy that she met on there.
Another plus is that I don't notice that many bots or fake profiles on Tinder. I'm not sure if this is just my experience as a female in a non-metropolitan area, but I've only come across maybe two profiles that seemed obviously fake.
Cons: Lack of responses. Some of my most clever messages have been left without their deserved response - and I've done the same thing to other people. Unless you're really picky with your swipes, you're likely to end up with more matches than you can manage talking to (as a female, at least. I can't speak for guys). So that one guy who had that fishing picture on his profile, but a witty joke in his bio that made me think 'might as well swipe right'... well, I have better people to talk to.
I use OkCupid somewhat casually. I have the app and answer messages when I get one from someone interesting (and I actually have an ongoing conversation with one girl from Nebraska - nowhere near where I live, but it's nice to chat with her). I've even met up with someone from OkCupid, but I just use Tinder a lot more.
This is because I've found that Tinder is easier to use for hookups or casual things (what I'm looking for), while OkCupid lends itself more to finding longer-lasting connections for the following reasons.
Pros: What I love about this app is that you have a ton of opportunity to tell people about you before you even start a conversation. It has an extensive bio section with questions that you can answer to give people info about what you like and who you are, and in addition to that, there are the match questions!
I personally find that the 'match percentages' that they give you are absolute bullshit, but the good thing about this feature is that you can go in and look at potential conversation partners' actual answers to the questions.
This can give you a lot of insight. I've rejected people on the basis of their answers alone. The match questions can get rather deep into different topics, and in my opinion opposite answers on some of the questions can reveal a fundamentally different worldview.
Once you answer a few match questions on OkCupid, you'll probably figure out what I mean.
Another big pro is that OkCupid tries to be inclusive of all sexualities and gender identities, and you can pick up to five of their sexuality options (which include asexual, questioning, and sapiosexual, among others) and up to five of their gender options (including androgynous, two spirit, genderfluid, and many more).
Tinder is kind of lacking in this regard. I don't think there's an option to alter your gender from what's on your Facebook profile, or to let people know your sexuality aside from explicitly stating it in your bio. And even if there is, I don't know where that option is, so they're failing somewhere.
Cons: I've found that there are quite a few fake profiles on OkCupid, either bots or scammers. A lot of the people who send me messages disable their accounts within a week - so many that it's not plausible that all of them just got sick of OkCupid.
I have fun with it though. There was one guy who messaged me three times, on three different accounts all with the same pictures a couple of weeks apart. He looked like a Jonas brother, and I told him the first time - and then just continued telling him whenever he messaged me.
There also aren't a ton of local options for me right now, being in a smaller city, but I feel like it has been growing since I started using the app.
Plenty of Fish:
I'm going to be honest here: I hate Plenty of Fish (not-so-affectionately known as POF). I re-downloaded it for the purpose of this post, to make sure I was remembering everything correctly, and as I look at that little fish icon I can feel the hatred in the depths of my soul. Luckily, it does have some pros that may make the app worth it for some people.
Pros: It has similar features to OkCupid, with one notable step up: you can securely call people through the app, without giving out personal information. It's honestly beyond me why anyone would use this, but I'm sure some people do enjoy being able to chat on the phone with potential dates before they go through it.
Maybe to help calm any nerves about meeting up with someone from a dating app?
You also get a lot of bullet point-type information, similar to a section of the OkCupid profile, but more spread out and taking up a lot more room. This could be a pro or con.
Cons: The app setup is horrid. It's pretty much the opposite of aesthetically pleasing and such a hassle to use compared to the OkCupid app.
This is the menu for the POF app (the shaded out area at the bottom is the profile pictures of potentials near me). You have to go to each individual section via this menu - and if you want to get to another section you have to go back to the menu page in between. There are better ways, POF staffers. Better ways.
See that bar on the bottom? That's the OkCupid menu. Always there. Always ready. You can skip between the five major tabs easily, and it combines multiple POF-equivalent sections into one tab. For example, on the tab shown, OkCupid 'likes' are bascially the same as POF 'favourites', which are contained into the same tab as people who 'visited you' - which is equivalent to people who 'viewed you' on POF.
OkCupid's app is just so much sleeker.
One bonus on POF is that in a cursory glance over people in my area, it seemed like there was an equal number of people looking for a longer-term relationship as those looking for casual relationships or hookups, so if you can handle the app you might want to add POF to your arsenal and take advantage of anyone who might be on that app but no others.
I started using Bumble for the purpose of this article, and in the couple of days I've been using it I'm not all that impressed. The idea behind it is awesome, I have to admit, but it doesn't work that well for me personally.
Oh yeah, and this is the one tied with Tinder for "most superficial". They both focus on swiping based on pictures, with only a limited profile (sometimes) given to help make the decision of left or right.
Pros: Females have to message first! It's a great idea, but I personally didn't like it. I enjoy evaluating the opening line of a guy - it can tell a lot. While I do start conversations if I have something in particular to say, the majority of my most meaningful Tinder conversations have been started by the guy.
For some people it's probably empowering to block guys from making the first move if you don't really want to talk to them, but if we were pickier with our Tinder swipes, we could create the same effect without the help of an app.
Another plus is that the guys on Bumble look a bit more genuine than guys on Tinder (just based on their profile images), probably because some of the really horrid fuckbois stay away because their lines wont work as well if the girl has to start the conversation.
Although I haven't used it, I love the idea of making the app multi-purpose and allowing users to look for same-sex friends (strictly friends, I mean). I might end up using that feature considering most of my friends are out of town for the summer...
Cons: The pool of potential matches is very small compared to Tinder - my search distance on Tinder is 40km and I almost never run out of matches unless I'm swiping consistently for a couple of days.
On Bumble my search distance was auto-set to about 40km and I ran out of people after about 30-40 swipes. I upped the distance to 70km and haven't run out since, but now some of my potentials are from the neighboring cities which can be up to an hour drive away.
I also feel like having matches expire serves no good purpose for me. Quite frequently I swipe as a time waster, so the idea of matches made during my time wasting expiring before I have the chance to message them during my next time wasting session isn't appealing.
Even though it's a lesser known app (and only available for iPhone right now), the premise behind Spotlight is simple: why pictures when you can do videos? Spotlight videos are similar to the videos you put on your Snapchat story - little glimpses into your life and what you enjoy doing - but utilizing those to tell people more about what you're like and who you are.
Like every dating app, there are some pros and cons to this.
Pros: The non-static nature of video really lets you see how someone lives their life. Sure someone can take a picture at the top of a mountain - but who knows, did they drive there and just get out of their car to take that picture? With video, they'd be showing you the journey and how much they liked (or did not like) that hike to the peak.
I love that there is also a version of the typical dating app profile as well - so you still get the Tinder experience of pictures and a short bio, but you also get a lot more than that. As you've probably realized from the rest of this post, information is key to me. OkCupid gives us that information in the form of a long and in-depth bio, while Spotlight gives it through videos.
Cons: This app definitely isn't for the camera shy. Some people would hate uploading videos of themselves. Hell, some people hate uploading pictures of themselves but you do what you have to do if you want to get people swiping right. Other people don't really want strangers to get such a deep look into their personal life, and I totally get that too.
It would also be a shift even for people who aren't camera shy. We're used to taking selfies and group shots and only putting those on dating apps. We can make our profiles look picture perfect, tailor them to get people to swipe right as often as possible. With video, that's harder.
You're never going to get a video where you look great in every frame (some angles are just bad, as I know all too well), and you're going to have to let your real self shine through a little more.
Now that I think about it, this probably isn't a con, because being yourself is likely to foster a lot more genuine connections than being the dating app version of yourself up until you meet in person. It'll be a shift regardless.
Then again, you'll probably have a lot of guys with videos of them doing dumb shit, which can be a total turn off. Sometimes I'd prefer to have met a guy in person before I learn that he's the type to have a drink poured on him from multiple stories up.
The only other obvious con I can think of is the amount of people using it. Spotlight is a relatively new dating app and doesn't yet have the user base of any of the other ones I've mentioned. I can see it having a good hold in large cities - but in smaller cities, you wont be able to use it as your primary app, as cool as the concept is. I would keep it around though, because I think their unique style of dating is going to catch on.
Tinder - great for hookups, maybe not the best place if you're looking for long term (though it is possible!)
OkCupid - My personal favorite, it's good for long term and you probably wont have much trouble finding a hookup either, if that's what you want. Easy to find people with exactly the preferences/characteristics you're looking for in a partner (such as a non-monogamous relationship).
Plenty of Fish - My advice: don't. But if you want a backup to any other apps on here, it seems to be good for both casual and longterm relationships.
Bumble - Essentially Tinder with a feminist twist. You either like the feminist twist or you don't, and I personally did not. You could probably find longterm easier on Bumble than Tinder, but I have no evidence to support this. It just feels like that would be the case.
Spotlight - An up-and-comer that really gets you to tell your story in a way that you don't have to on other apps. Chances are you can find both hookups and long term on Spotlight, but I feel like the model lends itself to finding long term relationships or even just good friends.
Honestly, I love OkCupid. In-depth profiles turn me on to a person a lot more than just a couple of selfies and group shots on a barely-there profile (as is the case with Tinder and Bumble, and even POF in some ways). Sure, looks still matter, but not in the way they do on Tinder - you have a chance to highlight potential shared interests and activities on OkCupid in a way that you just don't on Tinder, with your 500 character bio.
But for now, while I'm not really looking for particularly meaningful connections, Tinder it is.